No evidence that Judith Collins undermined SFO boss

Transcripts of interviews released to NZ Herald under the Official Information Act don’t reveal any evidence that then Justice Minister Judith Collins tried to undermine the head of the Serious Fraud Office, Adam Feeley.

It appears the ‘over-blown’ claims by Cameron Slater dumped his friend Collins into a political shit storm.

In Champagne stunt an utter disaster: Collins the Herald reports:

An inquiry by High Court judge Lester Chisholm, which published its report in November, found no evidence that Ms Collins had attempted to undermine Mr Feeley when she was Police Minister in 2011.

Transcripts of interviews with 13 witnesses, including Ms Collins, Mr Feeley, bloggers Cameron Slater and Cathy Odgers and lobbyist Carrick Graham have been released to the Herald under the Official Information Act.

The inquiry concluded that Slater had exaggerated or made up a claim that Ms Collins had been “gunning” for Mr Feeley.

Chisholm inquiry – key players

•Judith Collins (former Police, Justice Minister): Resigned as a minister after an email appeared to show she was “gunning” for SFO boss Adam Feeley. Later cleared of inappropriate conduct but not returned to Cabinet.

•Adam Feeley (former SFO CEO): Investigated by State Services Commission after celebrating charges against Rod Petricevic by drinking champagne taken from Bridgecorp’s offices.

•Cameron Slater (Whale Oil blogger): A friend of Collins, he claimed she was “gunning” for Feeley while she was Police Minister, but later admitted to the inquiry that his comment may have been over-blown.

•Carrick Graham (lobbyist): Paid blogger Cathy Odgers (Cactus Kate) to counter negative media attention for Hanover boss Mark Hotchin, whom the SFO was investigating. Ms Odgers used Slater’s blog to get a wider audience for the campaign.

•Anita Killeen (former SFO staffer): Leaked damaging information about Feeley. Later pleaded guilty to forging an email which appeared to be sent by Feeley. She was discharged without conviction.

Feeley thought Collins overreacted to embarrassing news about a champagne celebration.

Former Justice Minister Judith Collins described a champagne stunt by fraud watchdog Adam Feeley as an “utter disaster” that threatened to overshadow the Government at a crucial time.

Mr Feeley believed Ms Collins had overreacted when the then Serious Fraud Office boss was found to have celebrated charges against Bridgecorp with champagne taken from its offices.

They seem to have since dealt with that.

Was it just bullshit bravado from Slater that dumped Collins into the shit-storm that resulted in her resignation from Cabinet?

What were he, Odgers and Graham playing at? And for whom?

Has Slater protected her by later denying his claims?

O’Sullivan on Whale Oil versus SFO

I agree and disagree with Fran O’Sullivan in We need to know who tried to fit up SFO boss.

The issue is too big to be swept under the carpet by mere politics and a focus on chasing whistleblowers instead of the real issues.

She’s right that the SFO/Feeley issue is too big to be swept under the carpet, but I think she’s wrong explaining the Rawshark hacking as “mere politics and a focus on chasing whistleblowers” – if political hacking is given tacit approval by police as well as journalists then “dirty politics” could get much dirtier.

And even on the Feeley/SFO issue she may be getting ahead of proceedings.

But while the police have been busy poking about in Hager’s affairs – hacking is, after all, a crime – they do not appear to have actively followed up on Acting Opposition Leader David Parker’s pre-election complaint over various actions disclosed in the Dirty Politics affair, including the alleged “SFO/Hanover Sting”.

This suggests to me a failure of prioritisation on the part of police chief Mike Bush and his team.

I believe he could start by requiring Odgers, Graham and Slater to say just who paid them for apparently trying to fit up Feeley.

Fran may be too close to this issue, having been included in the emails revolving around Rawshark. She wants journalists left alone but others “required to say”.

She is not happy with the Police “poking about in Hager’s affairs“, and may not be happy if the Police saw fit to poke around in her affairs and ‘require’ her to say things.

Fran also details a current inquiry into the SFO/Feeley issue.

Key’s response to the email was to announce an inquiry, which is headed by respected High Court judge Justice Lester Chisholm.

The Chisholm Inquiry’s terms of reference are to the point. It will investigate whether:

  • There is any evidence Ms Collins acted inconsistently with the conduct expected of a minister by undermining or attempting to undermine Mr Feeley’s tenure as director of the Serious Fraud Office.
  • Ms Collins provided information about Mr Feeley during his tenure as director of the Serious Fraud Office to Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater or any other party not entitled to it.
  • Ms Collins inappropriately sought or received information about Mr Feeley from Slater or any other party.

It would also identify and report on any other relevant issues.

I think it makes sense for police to largely wait and see what the outcome of this inquiry is.It’s not as if there is urgency, Judith Collins is parked up on the back benches.

Justice Chisholm may or may not go far enough with his inquiry, but it should at least be a substantial starting point should a Police investigation prove justified.